The communication scenario in the country is rapidly changing and its impact is seen in all aspects of the country's progress. The Satellite Communication has played a dominant role by providing a platform to bring together remotest corners of the country. Over the years, the Satellite Communication has provided impetus to the growth of the distribution of the TV, VSATs etc., to name a few. With the liberalization of the economy and telecom policies, a host of applications are going to be benefited by the Satellite Communication. The tremendous demand for the bandwidth and the complex connectivity requirements seen today in the information society is an indication of the role of the Satellite Communication in the 21st century. The key technologies to propel the Satellite Communication towards meeting the challenge is continuously evolving. With the rapid advancement of the field all over the world, the issues debated are technical, as well as legal and regulatory in nature.
In our country, premier organizations like ISRO along with many users both in the govt. and private sectors have more than two decades of experience in the various aspects of the Satellite Communication. With a view to consolidate the experience gained so far and to get a pulse of the future trends in Satellite Communication, a Symposium on "Satellite Communication for the 21st Century" was organized by Astronautical Society of India at ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore on 25th May 2001.
The Symposium was inaugurated by Dr. K Kasturirangan, Chairman ISRO/Secretary DOS by lighting the lamp. In his inaugural address he highlighted the role of the satellite communication in the development of the country and the trends that will be seen in future. The addres was very illuminating and set the tone for the rest of the day. Dr. P S Goel, Director, ISAC spoke on the technological advances in the field and ISRO's contribution in terms of building communication satellites. Dr. K N Shankara, Director SCPO, ISRO-HQ and Chairman, Technical Advisory Committee welcomed the gathering and introduced the topic of the Symposium to the audience. The occasion also saw two more activities involving Astronautical Society of India, viz the release of the ASI newsletter by Dr. Kota Harinarayana, Distinguished Scientist, ADA and Vice President, ASI and the felicitation of some of the ASI members who have distinguished themselves by winning awards and by their achievements. Dr. K Kasturirangan, Mr. Madhavan Nair, Mr. R V Perumal, Dr. P S Nair were felicitated for the successful launch of GSLV and GSAT-1. Dr. P S Goel was facilitated for the Padmasri award. Dr. Kota Harinarayana was facilitated for the successful flight of LCA. Dr. K N Shankara was felicitated for Ram lal Wadhwa award (IETE), Dr. S Pal for the third millennium IEEE award and Mr. Rajkumar Samuel for the Aeronautical Society of India award. Mr. K N Suryanarayana Rao, Chairman Organizing Committee proposed a vote of thanks. The inaugural session ended with the keynote address by the renowned Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT, on the topic "Making Telecom and IT work for us". His address dealt with the various aspects of the Telecom needs of the, various lessons learnt in the past and prospects for the future, the bottlenecks and the solutions. He stressed the fact that only cost effective solutions can be sustained in meeting the telecom needs of the country and technology can be a tool for achieving the cost effectiveness. He also presented glimpses of the work done by his group in the field which has been internationally acclaimed.
Making Telecom and IT work for us -Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala
The development of a country is closely related to the development of infrastructure, more specifically the development of telecommunication infrastructure. Lack of telecommunication access can create strong divides among the population. In 1991,India and China both had about 5.5 million telephone connections. Today, India has 35 million compared to 200 million in China. There is an urgent need to add nearly 200 million telephones to the existing ones in the country.
If we look at the Indian scenario one can see that affordability holds the key for the expansion of the telecom infrastructure. This is evident if we study the expansion of the Cable TV in our country. Can we create similar situation in the telecom field?
It is in this context that Prof. Jhunjhunwala's group at IIT Chennai has endeavored to evolve affordable telecommunication technologies for the country. Essentially, the cost per line has to be brought down to about Rs.10,000/- in order to provide 200 million telephone & internet connections to the vast population in the country. This calls for cost reduction by a factor of 3 to 5. Is it possible?
The group at IIT Chennai found that the only way to reduce cost is to develop appropriate access network technologies with inherent low cost. This will enable smaller operators who invest a modest amount of capital to provide service in a local area. This local area can be a small town rural or urban.
Prof. Jhunjhunwala's group has developed corDECT wireless in loop(WLL) technology towards providing the necessary affordable technology. With five years of effort, they have developed a number of access products and they have brought down the network cost to about Rs.18,000 per line. The technology provides 35/70 KBPS internet and simultaneous telephone service in a range up to 25 kms. In addition, there is the Direct Internet Access System - a DSL product which provides simultaneous telephone and internet connection at 144 KBPS and 2 MBPS. A particular combination of 25% DSL, 50% WLL and 25% shared wireless provides cost as low as Rs.12,000 per line, a figure very near to the target.
He drove home the fact that this technology is already a reality and is being deployed in 25 cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur etc. by agencies like BSNL, MTNL and BSOs. The most important feature of this is the international acceptance of the system. The system is already operational in many developing countries like Argentina, Brazil, Madagoskar, Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Tunisia, Yenen, Nepal & Egypt. In Egypt corDECT system is being advantageously used in conjunction with a link through communication satellite.
The group at IIT-Chennai had to overcome a lot of initial resistance. They encountered problems like the nonavailability of the spectrum to the unequal playing field with respect to the imported products as far as the taxes are concerned. But the team refused to be defeated and through sustained efforts they were able to meet the challenge. They have provided an outstanding example of how a small dedicated team can make so much difference to provide unique solutions to the unique problems of our country. Ultimately, the planners who implement the solutions have to selectively chose the basket of technologies both indigenous and imported to provide a overall cost effective and practical solution. When we do this, we will automatically be technology leaders instead of becoming foot leaders at best, as Prof. Jhunjhunwala put it, if we follow the west. A very good message indeed for our ASI freternity.